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Sanders Unleashes School Choice Tsunami in Arkansas!

In a decisive move aimed at empowering parents and broadening educational horizons, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Monday a significant expansion of Education Freedom Accounts for Arkansas students in the upcoming school year. This expansion opens eligibility to include children of veterans, military reserve members, first responders, law enforcement officers, and students previously enrolled in D-rated schools for the 2024-2025 academic year. The move provides families with increased flexibility and choice in their children’s education.

The Education Freedom Account Program, a cornerstone of the LEARNS Act, championed by Governor Sanders last year, has proven instrumental in providing families with alternatives to traditional public schooling. Sanders, a mother of three herself, emphasized the importance of recognizing parental choice as the primary factor in determining a child’s educational path. By extending access to a broader range of students, including families of Arkansas’ heroes, the governor underscores her commitment to educational freedom and equal opportunity.

To support this expansion, the governor has proposed a significant $100 million increase in education funding for the fiscal year 2025 budget under the LEARNS Act. This substantial investment underscores Sanders' commitment to equipping families with the resources necessary to access the best educational options for their children, regardless of their circumstances.

Through the Education Freedom Account Program, eligible families receive up to 90% of Arkansas’ per-student foundation funding from the previous year, directly allocated to participating schools and service providers via a digital wallet. The expansion also allows unused funds to roll over into subsequent years, enabling families to save and plan for future educational expenses.

Expanding the flexibility of these accounts, the range of eligible expenses has been broadened to include instructional materials, tutoring services, curricula, supplemental supplies, select technology devices, transportation costs, and college course fees. This comprehensive approach ensures that families have the freedom to customize their children’s education to best suit their individual needs and aspirations.

Education Secretary Jacob Oliva voiced his support for the expanded eligibility, affirming that while public schools remain the preferred choice for most parents, the Education Freedom Account Program offers essential options for those seeking alternative educational avenues. The program's positive impact is already evident, with over 5,000 student applications funded last year and over 100 participating schools.

As the application process opens for students, schools, and service providers, Governor Sanders' forward-thinking leadership in advancing educational freedom continues to create transformative opportunities for Arkansas families. This bold expansion of Education Freedom Accounts reaffirms her dedication to ensuring that every child in the state has access to a high-quality education tailored to their individual needs and values.

Written by Staff Reports

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